A little bit ago, I posted about some memories of furry fandom and not long after, I got into a discussion with a friend who was also part of the fandom a long, long time ago. We started talking about roleplaying on the MUCKs and how it really changed over time. One of the biggest changes we recognized was the change from just being in character to playing “scenes” and this really seemed to epitomize the change from just being a fun place to hang out to being a fetish haven.
See, part of the fun of being on a MUCK and creating a character was actually roleplaying that character. In fact, there were some MUCKs where you absolutely had to be roleplaying in any public space or risk getting banned. My wife, in fact, was on a Pern MUCK back in the day and she and a friend were out riding a dragon somewhere, just them, nobody else around, nobody to overhear them, so they just started talking about stuff and she got some kind of infraction for being out of character in a “public” area. It was ridiculous, but I guess rules are rules. But that said, people actually created interesting characters and would stay in character for hours and hours and hours on end.
But then you got people who only cared about “scenes”. These were people who would only be in character while playing out one of these “scenes” and the rest of the time, they’d just be using the MUCK as a chatroom. And these “scenes” were so completely laid out before they even began, it was like reading a script in a play that you’re not allowed to deviate from. They’d negotiate what would happen, what the outcome would be and how it would impact future “scenes”. Nobody ever just winged it, it was always a nearly scripted affair. I think I tried it once, with someone who was really obnoxious and wanted to set up the ground rules in excruciating detail. Eventually, I said screw this, send me a script when you get it done, I’ll just ignore it and go do something fun.
Half the fun of roleplaying is just being spontaneous and staying in character, even if you’re doing mundane things. Having a snowball fight or just sitting around a campfire talking to other characters, that’s fun, at least to me.
And I realized something entirely unrelated. I’ve been listening to some RPG podcasts recently where they’ve been playing some “scene-oriented” games, where it isn’t just being in character and reacting as your character, it’s a bunch of players designing and playing through scenes, not necessarily acting as characters, but completing goals. I honestly hate that kind of game. I spent many years RPing in games where every second of every session wasn’t spent pursuing some kind of epic adventure. Where you just played to have fun, you got a bunch of people who enjoyed spending time together playing pretend and your enjoyment of each other’s company and each other’s creative skills made all the difference in the world. We’d have sessions where absolutely nothing of consequence happened, because we’d wind up in a tavern or we’d end up camped along the side of the road, stuff would happen and we’d all deal with it. In fact, some of my fondest gaming memories come from those instances, where things just happened and hilarity ensued. It didn’t matter that we weren’t saving the world or rescuing the princess, we were having a good time and isn’t that the real point of the activity? But these other games I’ve listened to, they’re not fun. They’re all negotiation. They’re all rules. You have to accomplish X, Y and Z before you’re allowed to stop. Your scenes have to be structured in such and such a way. Your characters have to be just like this, your behavior has to be just like that and plot? There is no plot! It’s just a series of connected scenes designed to make your roleplaying game just like a board game. And as much as I love board games, they are not and should not be RPGs and vice versa.
Everyone can do whatever they want, but it’s when people lose sight of what makes a particular activity fun that said activity goes sideways, at least IMO. And as I said, when people started playing “scenes” on MUCKs, that’s when they stopped feeling like communities and just like a series of impromptu stages for actors to perform on. And of course, that’s when it largely started to turn openly sexual, as people were negotiating sex acts with specific outcomes and then going off to perform said scenes. Or often worse, not going anywhere and just doing it in public for the crowd to view. And that’s when the whole thing stopped being fun and I stopped being interested.